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Versatile robot joins Marion Sheriff's Office ranks

By Richard Conn, Daily Sun

OCALA - It's 800 pounds of rolling, nearly impervious steel that can dispose of a bomb, expertly fire a shotgun, pull a vehicle or rescue someone who is incapacitated.

"It's pretty much unstoppable," said Capt. Dennis Strow of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Strow is talking about the Andros Wolverine 2000 multi-purpose robot, the Sheriff's Office's newest weapon in combating crime. Officials with the Sheriff's Office showed off the robot and all of its bells and whistles at a demonstration Tuesday morning at the Sheriff's Operations Center in Ocala.

The $190,000 robot is one of only seven being used by law enforcement agencies in Florida, Strow said.

"The really neat thing about (the robot) is that it can be used in SWAT operations," Strow said, adding that the machine, equipped with a number of television cameras for remote viewing, could carry a "throw" phone into a building in the event of a hostage situation.

The Wolverine is environmentally sealed to operate in all weather conditions and on virtually any surface, including sand, mud, gravel and grass. The robot also can climb stairs, Strow said.

The sheriff's office received federal funding from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness for use in purchasing the robot.

The 6-by-6-foot wheeled robot, made by REMOTEC, also can be used in providing airport security, is equipped to handle hazardous materials and can perform nuclear surveillance and maintenance. The Wolverine is the largest and strongest robot made by REMOTEC, according to the company's Web site.

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